Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bellingham's undercover adoption expenditure

It is amazing how true John Hattie's statement that
"Education is NOT an evidence based profession" proves to be on an almost daily basis.

Check out the actions of Bellingham school officials in continuing ongoing ineffective mathematics.

No More Cheerleaders Please

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Brief Filed in Court Challenge of
Seattle High School Math Text Adoption

Seattle, Washington – Dec. 3, 2009

Brief Filed in Court Challenge of Seattle High School Math Text Adoption

A brief was filed Monday, Nov. 23, in King County Superior Court appealing a May 6, 2009 Seattle School Board vote to adopt the Discovering Mathematics high school textbook series. The brief contends that the school district acted arbitrarily and capriciously in voting 4 to 3 to adopt a type of textbook associated with a widening achievement gap between minority students and white students, and between low-income students and other students.

Seeking to prevent the school district from adopting this series are plaintiffs DaZanne Porter, an African American and mother of a 9th-grade student in Seattle Public Schools; Martha McLaren, retired Seattle math teacher and grandparent of a Seattle Public Schools fourth grader; and Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington.

According to the brief filed Monday, Seattle Public Schools began eliminating "traditional" math texts in the 1990s, moving toward an approach called "reform," "discovery learning," or "constructivism," among other names. Reform texts rely heavily on written language, presenting complicated, “real-life” problems. Memorization and skills practice is de-emphasized, and calculator work is encouraged from kindergarten on. Students generally work in small groups to devise their own approaches and solutions. With traditional "explicit" texts, however, students are given the opportunity to master key topics through examples, practice and extensive teacher feedback.

The brief claims the district committee chosen to review mathematics textbooks was biased toward reform, and that the textbook criteria were similarly biased, so that the resulting recommendation would be a reform textbook.
The brief also states that the board voted to adopt the Discovering textbook series in contradiction of information presented prior to the vote.

The plaintiffs contend that the district superintendent and school board had access to data and research, including WASL scores, indicating that math skills of minority students have continually declined for all grades since reform textbooks were introduced.
The plaintiffs also claim the school board was informed that the Discovering series was not a good candidate program to reverse this negative trend.

Citizens testifying to the board prior to the May 6 vote emphasized that the Discovering textbook series had been rated “unsound” in a review conducted by the Washington State Board of Education, and that the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction had passed over the Discovering program, instead recommending Holt Mathematics, a balanced textbook series featuring increased explicit instruction.

In Seattle, the movement toward reform texts has culminated in the adoption of the Everyday Math K-5 texts, Connected Mathematics Project (CMP2) texts for grades 6 - 8, and now the Discovering texts for high school. At Cleveland High School, which has 95% ethnic minority and 70% free and reduced lunch students, a similar “Discovery/Inquiry” text was piloted from September 2006 to June 2009. In those three years, the WASL pass rates for Cleveland's Black 10th graders averaged around 10%, while the district average for Black 10th graders was about 22%; scores for limited English students declined dramatically, from 15.4% to 0% of students passing the exam.

The appeal of the School Board's May 6, 2009 vote was filed June 5 by attorney Keith Scully of Gendler and Mann, LLP. A hearing on the appeal is set for Jan. 11, 2010, in the court of Judge Julie Spector.


Contact: Martha McLaren

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tom Loveless- Misplaced Students in Algebra

Here is the full report with charts and data. Tom Loveless is a member of the National Advisory Math Panel.

Favorite lines from this report:

In eighth grade they are now expected to learn, in a single year, the six years of math that they have not yet learned along with a full year of algebra.

No one—no teacher, no researcher, no governor, no school board member, no philanthropist— knows how to teach in one year what has not been learned in six and then how to teach algebra on top of that. Algebra teachers are being asked to do the impossible.

The greatest teachers in the world do not know how to teach algebra to students who do not know basic arithmetic.

WTM on OSPI's Math Graduation Requirements

Where’s the Math?

Statement on OSPI Mathematics Graduation Requirements

November 30, 2009

Where’s the Math has been a consistent voice advocating for high math standards. Our members have worked from kitchen tables to the legislature floor to improve standards, instructional materials, assessments, and educational policy statewide. This month, Superintendent Randy Dorn called for a delay in the math graduation requirement and adoption of a two-tiered passage requirement. We believe that Dorn’s suggestions are in the best interest of Washington State’s students.

By asking for delay of the math graduation requirement, Dorn is facing reality: today’s high school students have been so badly damaged by a decade of deficient math that many will be unable to pass the new state exam. Washington students have suffered from unsound instructional materials, ineffective teaching practices, and vague assessment using the WASL. Unproven mathematical philosophies originating in colleges of education have not lived up to the promise of making math accessible to all students. Washington’s socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps in mathematics remain staggering, and high stakes testing without comprehensive improvements in curriculum and teacher competency will hurt the disadvantaged most.

The math problem is prevalent throughout the entire K-12 progression. Thus, expecting a high school graduation requirement to improve this situation is fantasy. Significant progress will only come from focused initiatives to improve standards, curricula, and teacher math knowledge at all grade levels. As math proficiency increases in lower grades, more students will be able to succeed both in higher level math and high school assessments.

Where’s the Math recognizes that not every student is college bound or destined to pursue a career in science, math or technology. Not every student needs to take Algebra II for their future career goals. But every student must have the opportunity to achieve at the highest levels. Therefore we support Dorn’s proposal for multiple math graduation pathways. Supt. Dorn’s recommendation took courage, and we applaud him for doing the right thing.

Where’s the Math officially endorses these focused legislative actions:

1. Supt. Randy Dorn’s recommendation to create two paths for the math graduation requirement starting in 2015 should be adopted.

2. The newly developed high school end-of-course assessments must be subjected to complete evaluation before they become graduation requirements.

3. The current development of the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) assessment for grades 3-8 must consider the entire set of State math standards when selecting items for assessment.

4. Clear remediation guidelines should be identified for grades 3-8 that require school and/or district intervention for students who score one or more years behind grade level.

In addition, OSPI must retire the ineffective reform math programs and practices still in favor by many entrenched educational interests. Randy Dorn needs to insure that his entire team at OSPI is fully committed to the success of his agenda to improve math outcomes for Washington students.

Where’s the Math Executive Committee

Monday, October 19, 2009

Math Warrior = John Saxon

"Results, not methodology, should be the basis of curriculum decisions," was the mantra of John Saxon, the maverick mathematics textbook author and publisher who began fighting failed Progressive math methodologies in 1981. The story of how John's first book on algebra set him on a mission to "turn around American mathematics education," and how he came to develop his embattled program in spite of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics efforts to destroy him and his program, is told in John Saxon's Mathematics Program, A Math Warrior's Almanac--The need for common sense in mathematics education.

Its three chapters, which are excerpts from a biography of John Saxon, describe his budding philosophy, how it evolved into a full belief system, and how his program should be used for greatest impact. It is the result of 14 months of research and writing.

Available in PDF for only $9.00 at, it offers responses to those who still insist that the Progressives' ideas work, in spite of the 20-year failed history of those ideas.

Once the fee is paid, a user can simply save the PDF and run the pages as wanted for reading or note-taking. You can also e-mail Niki at the following address:

Now is the time to bring John's ideas into policy conversations, especially as recently released national test scores show that American students are still showing dismal knowledge and skills in mathematics.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Letter to Seattle CAO 9-15-2009

Dear Seattle CAO Susan Enfield, 9-15-2009

I see that you will be addressing the School Board tomorrow night.

B. Chief Academic Officer’s Update (S. Enfield) - WASL Update
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Program Update

Normally these addresses about the WASL appear to be exercises in Cherry-Picking, where the good is highlighted and other things ignored. The WASL is not much of a math test but it is about all we have because the SPS has refused to publicly release the PSAT results from fall 2008. Please note the when Everyday Math (May 2007) was adopted specific references were made to closing grade 4 achievement gaps from WASL 2006. After one year of EDM use every grade 4 WASL math achievement gap increased from the already unacceptable 2006 levels and at the end of year two all of these gaps except one had increased even further. Yet no one is held accountable. The fact is these scores are never mentioned except by me.

In the June of 2008 the Strategic Plan stated:
Immediate Actions
• Math: A Math Project Team will develop an implementation plan and timeline for action during summer 2008. Alignment of the elementary and middle school instructional materials to the new State Performance Expectations will be completed this summer.

Except the Everyday Math pacing plan was the k-5 math curriculum during 2008-2009 NOT the new State Performance Expectations.

When I began my year in the SPS (2006-2007) in my initial interview for a “Pathways math” teaching position, it was apparent that the “Stand and Deliver” model was out and the “small group inquiry” “guide on the side” model was in. This “small group inquiry” was the “Best Practice” that the SPS was pushing for mathematics. (SPS ignores PFT, NMAP, and Hattie’s “Visible Learning” preferring make-believe best practices for math)

Despite a continually enlarging achievement gap over the preceding decade, in 2006 and 2007 it was believed that more in-service, professional development, and coaching would bring success.

The PD^3 collaboration between UW math, UW College of Education, and the Seattle Schools centered on small group problem centered inquiry using “IMP” materials. The “PD^3” results at Garfield were unimpressive and at Cleveland disastrous. For ELL students the results could hardly have been worse.

The majority of school directors inexplicably continue to trust that the Central Administration actions in regard to mathematics have merit despite a decade plus of evidence to the contrary. “Club Ed” fads and failed ideology have driven and continue to drive instructional materials selections and practices.

The empirical evidence continually points to the failure of SPS math direction. It seemed absurd to focus on vertical alignment k-12 in the high school math adoption when the k-8 program served educationally disadvantaged learners so poorly. The fact that the k-12 direction, practices, and instructional materials are so far removed from NMAP recommendations and the work of several cognitive psychologists (Geary, Sweller, Willingham) goes unaddressed by the SPS. There is no SPS accountability in fact there is no creditable response.

Here is Daniel Willingham’s Sept 14, 2009 interview from the Washington Post:

On May 19, 2004 the School Board signed a document about institutionalized racism. In the next 5 years the SPS continued to use mathematics practices known to be ineffective for disadvantaged learners (Project Follow Through etc.).

The SPS current definition of mathematics continues this SPS tradition of discrimination:
Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems.

The State of Washington has a “plan” at OSPI:
Plan to Close the Academic Achievement Gap for African American Students (PDF)
Except this “plan” when read it is NOT a plan for there are no actions recommended that will impact daily life in the classroom. We have in place a large number of agents that do nothing to impact the achievement gaps in mathematics but claim to be involved in that work.

Recently an opinion article appeared in the Seattle Times by Seattle teacher Mr. Michael Sparks: Discovery-based math makes a difference in performance of U.S. students

Mr. Michael Sparks” article is correctly labeled opinion as it has little in the way of logic or correct analysis in his praise for “Discovery-based Mathematics”.

It states: “And 12 years later down the road of reform? How goes it? Although we have now shot up — exponentially, by any stretch of the imagination —“
It ends with: “All things considered, however, the critics have failed to fully engage, discern, understand and appreciate the value and marvelous qualities and outcomes of programs like Connected Math2 when done well.
However one views the performance of the Seattle school district in these matters, the CM2 program itself, for all its imperfections, is of a world-class lineage and quality.”
The comparisons made are between TIMSS results in 1995 and 2007. The link between improved results and reform math is NOT demonstrated as:
1.. How much more reform math was in use in 2007 than 1995?
2.. Was there the exponential improvement that Mr. Sparks mentioned?

Previously I’ve informed the board that the 1995 nations and the 2007 nations are markedly different groups. The 1995 to 2007 difference is every nation added was academically weak with the exception of Taipei, Taiwan.

There was no measurable change in the percentage of either U.S. fourth- or eighth-graders performing at or above the advanced international benchmark in mathematics between 1995 and 2007 (grade four: 9 v. 10 percent; grade eight: 4 v. 6 percent).

Seven countries had higher percentages of fourth-grade students performing at or above the advanced international mathematics benchmark than the United States. The percentages in these countries ranged from 16 percent in the Russian Federation to 41 percent in Singapore.

Seven countries had higher percentages of eighth-grade students performing at or above the advanced international mathematics benchmark than the United States. The percentages in these countries ranged from 8 percent in the Russian Federation to 45 percent in Chinese Taipei.

A major goal should be to increase the mathematical preparedness of students a significant measure of this is the ability to score at or above the advanced international benchmark.

When the USA at grade 8 goes from 4% advanced to 6% advanced and the USA at grade 4 goes from 9% advanced to 10% advanced over 12 years, this is NOT exponential growth. In 2007 at grade 4 USA 10% scored advanced and Singapore 41%. (at the current rate of improvement of 1% every 12 years the USA will be at 41% in 372 years)
In 2007 at grade 8 USA scored 6% advanced and Taipei scored 45%. (at the 2% improvement rate the USA will be at 45% in 234 years) This is clearly not exponential growth on the part of USA mathematics. Why Mr. Sparks would think so is beyond my understanding.

Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Seoul, and Seattle are all major cities but only one of these refuses to use an internationally competitive mathematics curriculum and thus the poor results to show it. Why does the SPS continually refuse to adopt an internationally competitive math curriculum that uses internationally competitive materials and practices?

The good news for WASL 2009 k-12 SPS math is that only 26.3% (in 2006 this was at 32.4%) of students now fail to score above level 1 on the 8th grade math WASL (ELL = 62.6%, Blacks 47.5%, Hispanics 44.4%, Low Income 44.4% these are all improvements from 2006). The significant bad news is that at grade 10 in WASL math only Cleveland (at 21.2% passing) saw an increase in math WASL pass rate in 2009. All other comprehensive high schools saw declining WASL math passing-rates as did Nova -4.0, Center -17.5, and Summit -22.2.

There is neither accountability nor transparency when it comes to math education in Seattle. I hope that you begin to address this ongoing failure. If I may be of assistance please contact me. The PSAT results from fall 2008 would be a great starting place for increased transparency.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Social Promotion comes to Graduation
Wake Up Seattle!!!!

The Seattle proposal to make 1.0 good enough for graduation is not about the kids rather it is about the money. The WASL math & science achievement gaps continue to expand for almost all minority children as a direct result of discriminatory instructional decisions. Rather than fix ineffective practices that have adversely effected educationally disadvantaged learners for over a decade, the proposal is to lower the bar because the SPS wants our money. If the SPS was interested in more effectively educating children, then they would revise their poor practices and lousy instructional materials, but such remedies are never even considered.

For Team MG-J the money is more important than providing a quality program for kids. As Dr. Carol Simmons testified 1.0 for graduation is needed because this district does such a poor job of educating kids. I say until the leadership steps up and admits they do a lousy job, they should not get more money. Those in denial never fix a problem.

Consider the growing Math & Science achievement gaps noticed at last night's board meeting. “Project Follow Through” was the largest study in the history of education. PFT specifically dealt with finding the best instructional methods to serve educationally disadvantaged learners k-3. The SPS does the exact opposite in math and science of PFT recommendations. “Exploration/Inquiry” does not work for educationally disadvantaged learners and the SPS continues to ignore this fact.

The SPS ignores lack of progress by students, fails to provide the effective interventions specified in school board policies preferring social promotion above education. The school board chooses to endorse the use of ineffective discriminatory math materials and ignores Project Follow Through, the National Math Advisory Panel's final report, and the failing results of their three year math collaboration with the UW.

The SPS continues to violate article IX of the state constitution: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.” The last thing these educational decision-makers need is more money. What they need is a lawsuit big enough to get their attention but the ACLU, NAACP, and others are silent.

This is all about keeping more kids on the attendance rolls and the money that comes with it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Seattle "Accountability" = Propaganda
School Board Testimony 9-02-2009

Directors, I am Dan Dempsey

The new school calendar states:
"Every person employed by the District is accountable to contribute to our central goal of student achievement."
(page 2)
This quotation while laudable is only "Propaganda". The word “Accountability” has no basis in reality it is only "Propaganda".

USA medicine is the world’s most expensive but it is also arguably the best. It is evidence based. USA education is also the most expensive but NOT the best. In Seattle k-12 math education is NOT the best and is NOT evidence based.

In Seattle we have a pathetic decision-making model, which features no evidence and “ZERO” accountability.

Directors – I urge you to prove me wrong.

At the Superintendent’s urging four of you voted for a high school math adoption that produced a vertical alignment of k-12 instructional materials. Empirical evidence fromVisible Learning”, “Children’s Mathematical Development”, NMAP’s “Foundations for Success”, and “Project Follow Throughall point to the poor quality of that decision.

Directors Bass, Martin-Morris, and DeBell to their credit stated that the k-8 direction needed change …….. the exploration and inquiry model DOES NOT work. The current situation is dire for educationally disadvantaged learners but ……..NO ONE CARES enough to act.

With the adoption of Everyday Math two years ago Seattle traded a bad k-5 instructional program for a worse one. The large unacceptable grade 4 WASL achievement gaps prior to Everyday Math’s adoption all grew larger after one year of use and larger yet after two. (Black Gap is now 50 points.) Who was held accountable? Is anything changing?

I wrote to Chief Academic Officer Enfield:
The SPS has a clear record of futility in Closing achievement gaps and a clear pattern of Expanding achievement gaps.

It is time for a plan based on what works for disadvantaged learners.

I would like a plan of practices from you that will be used and measurable goals that can be measured annually to assess progress. Given the track record of the last decade saying the SPS will focus on anything in math without a written plan and goals is unacceptable. A significant change in direction is needed.

This district has used poor practices and poor materials and has the results to prove it. A written plan to change a decade of futility is in order.

………. looking at NMAP, Project Follow Through and effect sizes from John Hattie's "Visible Learning", it is very apparent that SPS math is misdirected.
She wrote:
Like you, we are committed to closing our achievement gaps and will continue to focus on this very important work in the months ahead.
(same story of the last decade)
So …. Will anything change? Where is the Accountability?
Directors, will we ever see action … or just more propaganda?
end of testimony

From John Hattie we can analyze the up-side-down world of Seattle Math thinking:

SPS pushes the following
Inquiry-based teaching: d=0.31
Differentiated Instruction: not a single study has been done
Problem-based learning: d = 0.15

Things Seattle rejects:

Problem Solving teaching d = 0.61
Direct Instruction d = 0.59
Mastery Learning d = 0.58
Worked Examples d = 0.57

Little wonder the SPS math results are pathetic.

The horrifying part is that the directors continue rubber-stamping administrative decisions based on “Club Ed” Fads, and a prevailing politically correct ideologically rather than examining “Empirical Evidence”.

The nonsense continues because the school board refuses to make decisions based on empirical evidence.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

League of Voters: Math Science update

Lots of links here:

and from CNN

Some districts figure it out but not Seattle

In looking at the percentage of students scoring at Level 1 (the clueless level) from 2006 to 2009 WASL math at grade 4 got worse for both Seattle and the State.
Seattle increased math time to 75 minutes per day for both 2007-2008 and 2008-2009.
Let us compare Seattle growth in level 1 scores with the State.

White = 1.6%
Low Income = 5.2%
Limited English = 5.6%
Black = 8.9%
Hispanic = 10.4%

White = 3.6%
Low Income = 5.6%
Limited English = 12.3%
Black = 6.3%
Hispanic = 6.2%
No surprise that the State scores are getting worse. WA districts are using about 1/3 Everyday Math, 1/3 Terc/Investigations, and overall about 95% of schools are using reform math programs in k-5. The Good News is after a decade of failure many districts like Clover Park want out and have adopted non-reform materials for this year.

The bad news is Seattle just keeps of believing that there is no need to change.
The School Board voted another $400,000 plus into Everyday Math this spring.
Seattle continues to under serve Black and Hispanic Students with ineffective math programs and practices. Instructional materials choices neglect those struggling to learn mathematics.
The Central Administration is intent on continuing the EDM debacle and the Board approves. It is time for a public meeting to discuss this.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Request for EDM meeting. A Seattle civil rights issue and more.

Here is my latest thought....

Dear Director DeBell,
Please schedule a public meeting as required by section (f) of RCW 28A.150.230 to discuss discontinuing the use of the ineffective Everyday Math instructional materials.
We the undersigned object to the use of these objectionable materials.


The February 2005 Notices of the American Mathematical Society Volume 52, Number 2 article: Racial Equity Requires Teaching Elementary School Teachers More Mathematics contained the following:
Patricia Clark Kenshaft, professor of mathematics at Montclair State University, did a survey in the mid-1980s of black mathematicians in New Jersey. Seventy-five black people with at least one degree in mathematics responded to a variety of questions, including, “What can be done to bring more blacks into mathematics?

The most common answer was, “Teach mathematics better to all American children. The way it is now, if children don’t learn mathematics at home, they don’t learn it at all, so any ethnic group that is underrepresented in mathematics will remain so until children are taught mathematics better in elementary school.
Those of us who thrive mathematically have had some good mathematical experience early, typically at home. Someone had asked for an example out of my own childhood, and I had explained how my father had described the meaning of π to me several months before I started kindergarten.

While the above survey took place in the mid-80s, it certainly describes Seattle’s elementary school Everyday Math program. Please consider the following information:

Seattle for the last two years increased math class time to 75 minutes per day, invested heavily in professional development and coaching, and carefully followed the EDM pacing plan. Seattle used mostly TERC/Investigations (a poor program) prior to EDM. The percentage of students scoring at level 1 (the clueless level on math testing) has increased in the last two years from already unacceptable levels of 2006. Here are the last four years of grade 4 Seattle Math WASL results (note EDM gets the credit for the last two).

Spring 2006 : 2007 : 2008 : 2009
White: 5.9% : 7.9% : 9.3% : 7.5%
Hispanic: 28.5% : 33.6% : 40.4% : 38.9%
Low Income: 33.0% : 36.0% : 40.0% : 38.2%
Black: 39.2% : 40.5% : 44.4% : 48.1%
Limited English: 45.3% : 52.2% : 58.0% : 50.9%

From 2006 to 2009 the Math Level 1 absolute differentials all increased:
White = 1.6%
Low Income = 5.2%
Limited English = 5.6%
Black = 8.9%
Hispanic = 10.4%

For Seattle any ethnic group that is underrepresented in mathematics will remain so.

The What Works Clearinghouse said: “Everyday Mathematics was found to have potentially positive effects on students' math achievement.” Last updated 4-30-07 and based on 12,600 students grade 3-5. The increases reported were based on a comparison with extremely poor instructional materials and discounted the effect of affluent parents. Clearly Seattle’s EDM experience has not been positive.

EDM has too many topics per grade level; it does not teach to mastery, it emphasizes its own focus algorithms rather than the traditional standard algorithms. It does not teach Long Division perhaps because it glosses over the multiplication needed for long division to be attempted.

The National Math Advisory Panel recommends against the EDM type of spiraling. The NMAP also recommends “Explicit Instruction” for those struggling to learn math. In Seattle, which adopted EDM on May 30, 2007, two years of state test data at grade 4 reveal a colossal failure of EDM instructional materials.

Math lessons add up -- NOT

Math lessons add up
Districts see improvements after implementing ‘everyday’ approach to mathematics
by Ed Mahon

My response to this article follows:
The article names no districts that saw improvements. An inspection of the research on the 12,600 grades 3-5 students used reveals serious questions.

From the article:
Everyday Math (EDM) as one of two math programs with enough data to prove it’s had a positive impact on student achievement. On average, performance increases by 6 percentile points, the research found.

Here is what WWC really said: “Everyday Mathematics was found to have potentially positive effects on students' math achievement.” Last updated 4-30-07 and based on 12,600 students grade 3-5.

EDM has too many topics per grade level; it does not teach to mastery, it emphasizes its own focus algorithms rather than the traditional standard algorithms. It does not teach Long Division perhaps because it glosses over the multiplication needed for long division to be attempted. They recommend pick up a calculator for division.

The National Math Advisory Panel recommends against the EDM type of spiraling. The NMAP also recommends “Explicit Instruction” for those struggling to learn math. In Seattle, which adopted EDM on May 30, 2007, two years of state test data at grade 4 reveal a colossal failure. {Much like Denver's EDM - Connected Math k-8 combination.. another BIG failure}

Seattle for the last two years increased math class time to 75 minutes per day, invested heavily in professional development and coaching, and carefully followed the EDM pacing plan. Seattle used mostly TERC/Investigations (a poor program) prior to EDM. The percentage of students scoring at level 1 (the clueless level on math testing) increased in the last two years from already unacceptable levels. Here are the last four years of Level 1 scores - note EDM gets the credit for the last two.

year : 2006 :2007 : 2008 : 2009
White: 5.9% : 7.9% : 9.3% : 7.5%
Hispanic: 28.5% : 33.6% : 40.4% : 38.9%
Low Income : 33.0% : 36.0% : 40.0% : 38.2%
Black : 39.2% : 40.5% : 44.4% : 48.1%
Lim English : 45.3% : 52.2% : 58.0% : 50.9%

Education fails to use relevant data to make intelligent decisions. Fads and adherence to failed ideology are preferred over empirical evidence. Read John Hattie’s “Visible Learning” to find out those practices, which actually work.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

12 of 13 HS's in Seattle scored Math WASL lower in 2009

Dear Seattle School Director,

This week you received an analysis of Math scores by David Orbits. Both Mr. Orbits and I are concerned with the failure of decision-makers in mathematics to adequately serve educationally disadvantaged learners. Empirical research is disregarded by decision-makers to the detriment of disadvantaged learners.

I have decided to look at results in Bethel SD, which uses EDM – Connected – Discovering just as Seattle will be doing this year. Bethel adopted EDM the same year as Seattle both have used Everyday Math for two full school years. Bethel has used the Discovering Series for three years. There are shocking similarities in the Discovering results from Bethel that parallel the inadequacies of IMP at Cleveland over the same three years. Bethel’s level 1 numbers were declining until Discovering was adopted and then began rising. Here are Bethel’s Level 1 absolute numbers for the three years before and then three years after:
2004 : 2005 : 2006 ::-:: 2007 : 2008 : 2009
525 ...478 ... 361 .:-: ..470 .. 501 : 555

In my comparisons, I tried to look over a span of years where the initial state score was near the 2009 state score for all students. Grade four from 2003 to 2009. Grade 7 from 2005 to 2007. Grade 10 from 2004 to 2009. Because in 2006 Seattle changed who was tested as a 10 grade WASL student I did not do a span comparison of Seattle at grade 10. This Seattle change resulted in 10th grade math pass rate moving from 40% to 55% in one year. The grade 7 Math WASL was significantly altered prior to 2005.

I wish I had a better test than the WASL to use.
I still have yet to get any results from the Fall 2008 PSAT given district wide to 10th graders.

It should be noted that the re-classification change in 2006 reduced the number of students classified as 10th graders substantially from 2005 numbers by the following percentages:
ALL = -24% ; White = -16% ; Black = -38.5% ; Low Income = -41.5% (This gives a nice guide to which student groups are not being well served by the district. Only 6 of 10 low Income Students advanced from grade 9 to grade 10 in 2006.)

I hope you find the following data pages useful. I leave you with three thoughts:
1… Where is the data that shows Seattle has achieved performance that is superior or equal to that achieved by successful programs (not simply the administration’s last unsuccessful attempt)?
2… Those in the direct instruction program (k-3) were twice as likely as their peers in other programs to graduate from high school. (Project Follow Through). Why does the district distain Direct Instruction in Math and other subjects and yet claim to be concerned about disadvantaged learners and the achievement gaps?
3… Cleveland increased its WASL math score in 2009 moving from last place in the district to above Rainier Beach. Only Cleveland scored higher in 2009 than in 2008. Still 56.6% of Cleveland Students could not score above level 1. All other 9 comprehensive high schools scored lower in Math than last year as did Nova, Center, and Pathfinder. A sound k-8 program is the basis for high school success and k-4 years are of most importance.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

If anyone would like the Bethel and SPS data write me at:

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Seattle Testimony for Wed. August 19th

Studies by Lipping Ma and others inform us that for over 100 years US k-12 math education has been poor. Traditional Math, New Math, or Reform Math all were and are inadequate.

There is a new world, a flatter world, and internationally competitive math is required for national success. Some see US public education as a monopoly that chooses not to compete. I see Seattle choosing to be internationally non-competitive in math and out of touch with reality.

A competitive math program requires coherence in the order of topics taught and a focus on fewer topics at each grade level. Instead Seattle chooses the ineffective, incoherent, unfocused Everyday Math spiral with no mastery needed or intended.

NMAP recommends “Explicit Instruction” for struggling students based on “examples” but Seattle ignores this strongly recommended effective practice. The NCTM focal points recommend a narrowing of topics at each grade level. Seattle pursued the exact opposite last year “The Everyday Math” pacing plan.

Hattie reports: Direct Instruction, Mastery Learning, Problem Solving-Teaching, and Worked Examples all have effect sizes greater than half a standard deviation; but Seattle chooses inferior strategies.

Inquiry based teaching is only half as effective as direct instruction. Problem-based learning is only one fourth as effective as problem solving. There is no empirical research available on differentiated instruction.

NMAP recommends a focus on “Authentic Algebra”, but Seattle chooses to waste time off-task teaching inappropriate pseudo-statistics.

Intel and Microsoft use H1B Visas or relocate outside the US because districts like Seattle refuse to effectively teach Math to students.

The empirical research is there. Effective practices and programs are available but Seattle regularly chooses grossly ineffective fads over proven success. Job postings for math coaches talk about “Best Practices” and effective use of adopted instructional materials.

Seattle’s non-competitive math monopoly trains employees to be ineffective. Teachers must use poorly selected instructional materials and strategies with low effect sizes.

Deming tells us that at least 85% of any system’s performance inadequacies are structural in nature, while at most 15% could be due to employee inadequacy.

Seattle Math is a structural mess. How can the superintendent possibly suggest merit-based pay. Merit and Seattle’s math direction are polar opposites. To serve the children and the nation this board must require empirically based decision-making. Coaching teachers in using non-competitive materials and ineffective practices is typical in Seattle math and a continuing waste of resources. This must Stop.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bill & Melinda - they mean so well
...they're trying so hard...

Another story that again reveals a shocking lack of evidence on the part of the establishment and many of those seeking improvement.

Compton and Barrett rock!!!!

Bob Compton at 2 million minutes writes

Bill & Melinda - they mean so well...they're trying so hard...

But they are so misguided.
Here is my response:

Nice title "They mean so well"
..... reminds me of Dr. Richard A. Askey's paper:
"Good Intentions are not Enough".

July 20, 21 more from GATES a (misguided) math conference......

IMAGINE: Mathematics Assessment For Learning
A Convening of Practitioners and Partners

Again more talking about math education but no real concrete classroom recommendations.

Read John Hattie's "Visible Learning".
Hattie provides the evidence needed to make informed instructional decisions.

Education blunders on because "Fads" and a "Club Ed" politically correct ideology drive decision-making NOT evidence. Gates foundation has yet to interrupt this. The consultants and other pseudo-experts on education have helped push the USA into an enormous hole. I see NO evidence they are capable of guiding us out.

The local school districts like Seattle still believe in "Best Math Practices" etc. that have no evidentiary validation.

The UW in collaboration with the Seattle schools devised a school NSF/EHR funded project at Cleveland High School from 2006-2009 using the "exemplary" Interactive Math Program,
a problem-based mathematics curriculum. The results were a disaster. Hattie found "problem-based" learning to have an effect size of 0.15. He recommends effect sizes of 0.40 or greater for proposed innovations. Check the Cleveland HS 10th grade 2008 math score for students who experienced the full two years of this program:

Unfortunately .... accountability is absent and evidence is ignored.

Seattle has chosen to top off their misdirected k-8 math program of Everyday Math and Connected Math 2 with "Discovering Algebra" and "Discovering Geometry".

Discovering Algebra : An Investigative Approach
Effect size of 0.31 for Inquiry Learning.

The National Math Advisory Panel recommends explicit instruction for those struggling to learn math, which in Seattle is at least 50% of the student population. Instead the district decides on:

1..... Investigations at the beginning of each lesson help you give all your students—regardless of their mathematical backgrounds—a shared experience from which to base their learning.
2.... You will be able to teach an algebra course that is both rigorous and accessible to your students because the investigations give meaning to mathematics that all students, regardless of their skill level, can understand.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data NOT just belief in publisher's fairy-tales.

Direct Instruction (0.59)
Mastery Learning (0.58)
Problem Solving teaching (0.61)
Worked Examples (0.57)

The above could have been a positive beginning in attempting to correct over a decade of malpractice. Instead Seattle blunders on.
Compton wrote:

If America would just listen to Craig Barrett we'd be half way to a world class education. The steps are simple:

1- set the curriculum to the same level of difficulty as your economic competitors (sort of like training to win in a globally competitive sport - train as intensely as your competitors and you may have a shot)

2- hire teachers with Masters degrees in the discipline they are to teach and then coach them on being effective teachers. It is much easier to coach an MS in Physics on how to teach, than to coach an Education major to be a physicist. Try it at home; see for yourself.

{so is there any evidence Seattle could coach anyone in math or science to be an effective teacher?}

3- measure results - use the AP exams as national standards and test to see how students and teachers are progressing.

Has anyone other than a few US Charter schools (and 400 million Indians and Chinese) tried that simple formula?
In regard to #1 Seattle prefers to run away and hide with "Discovering" Math series from Key Curriculum Press....... Seattle has not even figured out where the playing field is, thus competing is out of the question.

In regard to #2 Salaries and instructional materials selections are so bad who would even consider working in this system a reasonable undertaking? Seattle's last two math program managers produced the math show but had NO undergraduate degree in mathematics. Masters degrees in content areas for teachers is a big reach when the math program managers and math coaches often do not have undergraduate degrees in mathematics.

I would suggest as #4 a reasonable but often neglected starting place is to get grades k-4 squared away. "Project Follow Through" would be a great starting place.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Feds ignore laws and expand power in Education

from Laurie Rogers....

Welcome to your new paradigm, folks. Parents are not the “stakeholders” that matter to these bureaucrats. They behave as if we don’t know anything and have nothing to contribute. They seem to think we should sit down, shut up and stop bothering the true professionals. We are not supposed to take notice of their obvious disregard for inconvenient laws and policies.
This message is coming through loud and clear, and I reject it completely.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


The Seattle School Board needs to step up to the plate and act differently than those that produced the last 30 years of substandard education.

On July 20, 2009 eSchool News published retiring Intel Chairman Craig Barrett’s speech


Dr. Barrett makes several points worthy of consideration. The most striking aspect of what he wrote is how poorly the education system has performed in the last 35 years. This made me think of the old saying think globally and act locally. It is particularly imperative for the board to act thoughtfully and forcefully if we are to see significant academic improvement in Seattle. While I was disgusted on May 30, 2007, when the board voted 6-0 for Everyday Math, the most disturbing part for me occurred when Director DeBell said to me in informal conversation that the math situation would likely be settled by the state.

Fortunately Director DeBell is no longer buying the math line and hopefully questions everything coming from the state and the Feds. In many areas I see the overall situation as worse than two years ago. To any director thinking of using a path of incremental change check Barrett’s commentary. Incremental change is woefully insufficient for the mess Seattle and the nation are in.

In regard to State leadership I find that despite teachers with Masters degrees, ongoing credits required for continued certification, frequent professional development offerings, late start and early release days and much more that the result is a worsened math situation.

Dr. Barrett writes: “America has 30-plus years of high quality reports saying K-12 education is in serious trouble”….. “Nobody has done a thing. The system has not done a thing.” ….. “to run a good education system your education system cannot be any better than the quality of the teachers in it”…. “America has become #1 in the world at one thing – making excuses for failure.” … “my proposal is to blow up all undergraduate schools of education in the United States.”

What has Seattle done to effect significant positive change in k-12 mathematics?
Nobody has done a thing.

#1… Seattle’s EDM Professional Development for the elementary school teachers focused on pedagogy and games not increasing mathematical content knowledge of teachers. It was well known that Seattle had unacceptably high and growing math achievement gaps. Washington State from 2003-2007 had among the worst changes in NAEP math achievement gaps in the nation at grades 4 and 8.

Given the above background why anyone would elect to continue to use the most used k-8 materials in the state and be expecting significant improvement, is beyond my understanding.

#2… The Board had the data from the Cleveland Math disaster and yet adopted a math program that uses almost the exact same design with slightly different materials. It’s plain crazy.

#3… Now Seattle is headed off to “Managed Instruction” another proven failure is being undertaken.

#4… No one in administration is ever held accountable for misleading the board. Ms. Santorno’s deception in May 2007 includes this partial list: achievement gaps will close, focus on fewer topics, arithmetic fluency to the point of automaticity, Singapore will be used 15 minutes per day.

#5… Ms. de la Fuente has stated that the math materials are not particularly important. According to her, it is the other things that are really important. Supposedly all those other things were provided at Cleveland and produced an incredible failure. The idea that the instructional materials are not particularly important is a uniquely American thought. The careful development of Singapore Math texts over the last 25 years was an important component in producing that nation’s planned phenomenal math improvement. When Seattle math leaders believe otherwise it explains why USA math goes nowhere. Directors must stop accepting Central Office nonsense.

Where is the accountability for #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5?
“We can have a crummy education product and be okay,” it’s plain crazy.

The average American kid is sub-standard, well below the average of most of the developed countries, and how we … can tolerate that is absolutely beyond me.

Clearly in Seattle we not only tolerate it, we plan for it.

The text of Dr. Barrett’s speech is linked.

He states: There are only three things we can do to compete with the rest of the world, and one of them is our educational system, our base educational system.

It does not appear that Seattle has much interest in competing. No one could look at “Discovering” and then the high school math texts used in Singapore, Japan, Korea, or Poland, and believe there is any competition intended.

The only driving force behind the HS math adoption appeared to be the politics of covering for ongoing mistakes. It appears adults’ interests trumped children’s interests once again.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Centralized Control : Deborah Meier
NOT a fan

My opposition probably reflects the views of the founders of our Constitution and the vast majority of Americans up to….yesterday (so to speak). The current DOE/Duncan agenda—Mayoral control, tougher national tests based on a national curriculum, teachers paid by test score results, etc, in fact, was never even mentioned in Obama’s political campaign. (Similarly, recent studies indicate that neither mayoral control has produced almost no statistical changes in its two most prominent trials—NYC and Chicago. What’s interesting is how in such a short time we went from practically no one agreeing with it—much less assuming it was an imminent plan!—to its being official policy–already in the works! The process itself chills me. The “behind the scenes” nature of the decision-making by interlocking circles of “influential” interests on matters affecting the minds of our children appalls me.

Accountability and Measurement if any

David Orbits writes in response to an article about the United Nations titled:
After $196 billion, no proof U.N. programs help:
Some programs may actually hurt health care by disrupting local services

The lack of effective measurement is not limited to Education. Results in the UN health programs can also be both ineffective and unintended. See below. All that money spent and no plan in place to measure effectiveness and efficiency.

The underlying problem is the same with Education at all levels from the school, to the district, state, federal … to the NSF Education Directorate. Any organization of humans, unencumbered by independent measures of the organization’s efficiency and effectiveness relative to its goals, has little incentive to be either efficient or highly effective. This is simple human nature. Absent any data, everyone is above average. In health care more people will die than should have, in Education more people will be stuck in low-wage jobs for the rest of their lives. All because of the natural human tendency to evade accountability.

Does anyone know if companies exist that perform audits of the educational effectiveness of a school, or a district, by grade level and demographic group for a selected subject? A properly selected sample with an “appropriate” standards based test for the grade level by an independent 3rd party could certainly shine some light on things. Need to be very careful to avoid conflict of interest issues. Having a bunch of Ed School folks or curriculum publishers constructing tests and performing audits would be very bad.
As close to what Mr. Orbits suggests was the Phi Delta Kappa curriculum audit done for Seattle.
It is not exactly what Mr. Orbits suggested but was quietly brushed under the rug.

In the same way that it can be said:
About the UN that some programs may actually hurt health care by disrupting local services, in Seattle the plan for centrally directed "Managed Instruction" hurts local school classroom instruction.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Accumulated Damage :
Out of sight and Out of mind

Words from Dave Orbits:

“Is it reasonable to expect that kids who have never met a math benchmark in grades 1-8 will miraculously pass the WASL or any other type of high standards exam?”

These delusions are simply astonishing. Our education system is not doing the kid any favors when he/she is promoted without any intervention. Not until years later will the kids realize they were really cheated (along with society at large). This is shameful on the part of the adults. We need to have students achieve minimum required subject goals every year or either hold them back or require summer remediation to get them to minimum grade level. Doing this at an early age would do really good things for the kid who needs that extra help. Additionally it would help give him/her some motivational kick and let the parents know the kid is having some problems with the subject(s) …

The negative effects of sweeping low achievement under the rug are just so profound for both the student’s future success in school and career options that it makes you wonder how the educrats, the “experts” in educating the child, the stewards of our public education system, could ever allow this to occur? Perhaps it is a natural human tendency to not want to inflict or experience pain that makes us err on the side of wishful thinking hoping for a magic pill to make everything better. Meanwhile social promotion just kicks the kid down the road while the damage accumulates where it’s out of sight, out of mind.

A Plan to Increase Achievement:
Explicit Instruction, School Autonomy, Not National Standards.

A Plan to Increase Achievement:
Explicit Instruction, School Autonomy, Not National Standards.

If you've been suspicious of "discovery" or "inquiry" learning that can be found throughout our schools, your suspicions are well founded.

Good teachers design classroom instruction not just on past experiences but also on relevant data. One of the best places to look for empirical evidence likely to increase achievement is the book, Visible Learning by John Hattie, a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement that collectively looked at 83 million students. It reports the following “effect sizes”:

Problem based teaching = 0.15
Inquiry based teaching = 0.31
Direct Instruction = 0.59

An “effect size” of 0.30 or lower is ineffective. So put to rest the example based "Explicit/Direct Instruction" vs. "Discovery/Inquiry" controversy by using this major report. Teaching students directly is superior to go figure it out on your own. There is a reason that people pay for golf lessons and piano lessons; they wish to learn by direct instruction because it works.

Studies, occasionally underwritten by publishers and other special interest vendors, often conflict with one another generating confusion and rendering the phrase “research shows” meaningless. Fortunately, other respected peer reviewed empirically validated studies show direct instruction can be the source of increased achievement. Kirschner-Sweller-Clark’s (2006) “Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching” is excellent.

A special issue on “Evolution and Education” of the Educational Psychologist journal, October 2008, contained the following target article: "An Evolutionarily Informed Education Science" by David C. Geary. It also contained an accompanying piece “Instructional Implications of David C. Geary’s Evolutionary Educational Psychology” by John Sweller. These contain a history of how the constructivist discovery/inquiry approach began and explain why, based on brain architecture, it remains an ineffective pedagogical approach.

While few math teachers may reference the above studies, most teachers interested in increasing the measurable academic achievement of their students are aware of the inadequacies of the inquiry approach. Some guided discovery activities may be beneficial but inquiry based teaching fails. It’s true that research mathematicians and highly trained, knowledgeable scientists use inquiry to extend acquired knowledge, make discoveries, and spawn invention. But that in no way legitimizes “inquiry” as an exclusive pedagogical approach. Expecting students who are not experts, but novices, to discover through inquiry the knowledge accumulated by experts over centuries is neither efficient nor realistic.

Those running our schools operate as an oligarchy and often mandate that teachers do the opposite of what empirical evidence indicates. After a decade of failure in mathematics, many choose to stay the course with costly “reform math” and show no interest in correcting their errors. For them, ideology and profits trump evidence. In Washington State, the former Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson produced mathematical chaos throughout the state by pushing her inquiry-based reform math agenda during 12 years in office. Nationally, the story has been much the same via National Science Foundation (NSF) grants, which funded the development, promotion, establishment, and use of “reform math.” The universities welcome this money for it increases department budgets and prestige. It should be noted that much of what math teachers and the public have “suffered through” and been “oppressed by” came from a few hundred million dollars in NSF funding that was initiated over 20 years ago.

Since results matter, it is time to move from the suspicion that “reform math” might not be a good idea to political activism to stop it. Currently, members from a select group of ideologues are involved in directing the development of National Common Core Standards. These unelected developers were not even appointed by elected officials. The question that must be answered is how these individuals are qualified to serve and why aren’t there active teachers involved in the writing? Many were the authors of past chaos. Phil Daro immediately comes to mind from the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas. The Dana Center became the hired ($770,000+) agents of Dr. Bergeson and worked to continue the “reform math” chaos until that was halted by the legislature. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the nation’s report card, reported from 2003 to 2007 that the achievement gap changes in mathematics were among the worst in the nation for Washington’s Black students in 4th grade as well as 8th grade. These same miserable results were reported for Hispanic students.

To obtain academic improvement, classroom environments must be improved not by administrative fiat but by supporting teachers, parents, and students through developing, improving, and maintaining learning communities to meet the needs of each student as they increase core knowledge.

The acknowledgment that students are individuals having differences in interests, genetic abilities, environmental skills, and intellectual capabilities would be an excellent antidote to the insanity of broad general government mandates about what all students will do.

Since we are already captives of vendor-based standards, I trust we will not be far off if we refer to the coming Common Core Standards as the No Vendor Left Behind Law. These vendor-friendly standards will be products of the oligarchy and not of democratic decision-making. Vendor-friendly standards are biased toward spending on expensive to develop and administer annual tests, which increase corporate profits but not learning. Often technological spending is advocated, which usually fails to increase achievement. It is time to focus on providing each child with the education they need for successful lives and careers. Both remediation and acceleration through effective interventions are needed. The ending of social promotion will do far more than another artificially raised and expensively annually monitored bar. Support of democratic reforms for greater local autonomy in the classroom and school may enable teachers to use explicit instruction instead of being required to use ineffective approaches.

All the talk about accountability in public education produces little if any improvement. It is time to end the trend toward centralized authority in education at both the state and national level. Sham accountability must end. No Child Left Behind sanctions were often counterproductive. A school with its own board of trustees and a principal having greater control over both budget and instructional decisions would be a significant improvement. Then the principal as leader could be easily supported and held responsible by both the board and school community. This structure would greatly reduce central administration inefficiency as well as fad- and vendor-based decisions. Such schools are necessary if we are to make the substantial improvements needed in public education. Learning improvement occurs locally. Believing otherwise is folly.

copyright@Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Not national standards draft #3

A Plan to Increase Achievement: Explicit Instruction Not National Standards.

see final copy ...

2nd Draft Increasing Achievement

Increasing Math Achievement via Oligarchy or Democracy
see final copy ....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Statistics that Colleges hate to share

The statistics that colleges hate to share or Accountability, K-12 and beyond! or Recession comes to college or Is the college bubble about to burst? This article apparently hit a nerve as there were a lot of comments posted.

From CNN

First Draft

Increasing Math achievement
........................... via Oligarchy or Democracy

... see final copy

Steve ... There is a Serious Problem

Dear Steve Sundquist,

It is clear that in regard to the High school Math adoption the empirical evidence you needed as a Seattle School Director to make an informed decision was easily available, but the Central Administration did not provide it.

It is clear that the UW and the Central Admin have been faking and deceiving for at least 2.6 years. Can we stop yet?

The only way this stops is if the board stops endorsing and approving the deception.

If you review my letter to Director Sherry Carr, you will find a huge effect size difference between Direct Instruction and Inquiry from John Hattie's meta-analysis. Or just look at the UW directed Cleveland math disaster.

Hattie's analysis provides additional validation of the peer reviewed, empirically validated Kirschner-Sweller-Clark Study "Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work:"

Meta-analysis is a method for pooling the quantitative estimates of effects of interventions from multiple studies to (hopefully) give a more reliable and precise estimate of their benefits (or potential harm). Comparing these estimates across different types of interventions can also pinpoint which aspects of interventions offer the most potential in the classroom. Meta-analysis is proving to be a useful approach to addressing the key question of ‘What works?’ by providing an opportunity for ‘ground-clearing’ and priority- setting, since by offering comparative information about how well different interventions work, teachers can make informed decisions. Hattie is author of the largest meta-analysis. Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement.

* ‘We need to make relative statements about what impacts on student work.
* We need estimates of magnitude as well as statistical significance – it is not good enough to say that this works because lots of people use it etc, but that this works because of the magnitude of impact.
* We need to be building a model based on these relative magnitudes of effects.’ (Hattie, 2003)

The district is now firmly planted in the wrong direction.
The district has wasted many years of student's mathematical lives. Now we have many more years of frustration to look forward to, unless the board has an action in mind to make Every student achieving, everyone accountable more than a cruel hoax.

The High School math adoption was a fraudulent action, rigged by the Central Administration to look fair and unbiased to the casual observer.

When children fall behind they often give up. The SPS has a system in place that frustrates parents and children both. Seattle already has a poor H.S. graduation rate. Discovering Algebra etc. will certainly not improve college math remediation rates of SPS grads.

As Charlie Mas wrote on the SPS Blog: There has been little or no public discussion of what teachers are supposed to do for students who are working below grade level and lack the necessary foundation to do grade level work.

Looks like the Social Promotion plan will stay firmly in place for yet another year. Not a single math text k-12 is a State recommended text book. The k-12 materials do not allow for much "Explicit Instruction" instead the plan rests on a failed inquiry ideology.

Everyday math is terrible in a variety of ways as I've noted earlier. It is the antithesis of many of NMAP's recommendations.

So what is the plan? Are you going to rely on those who deceived you?

Either way I would like to know what the plan is and whether the Board is planning on abdicating its responsibility to educate all the children or not?

The empirical evidence clearly indicates the path to take and once again in math the SPS has failed to take the correct action.


Dan Dempsey

Letter to Seattle and others

Problem based teaching = 0.15
Inquiry based teaching = 0.31
Direct Instruction = 0.59

Dear Decision Makers,

If you are interested in increasing student achievement, then

Empirical evidence should be considered in making decisions.
In the SPS this has often NOT been the case.

Math teachers throughout Washington State watched the abysmal results as Administration forced changes in instructional decision making through a bizarre top down destruction of more effective practices (often under the guise of best practices).

Check this:
John Hattie published "Visible Learning" which uses "A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement" which collectively looks at 83 million students and found the following effect sizes:

Problem based teaching = 0.15
Inquiry based teaching = 0.31
Direct Instruction = 0.59

The following should be a non-issue:
"Discovery/Inquiry" vs: Example Based "Explicit/Direct Instruction"

But it is not, much to the chagrin of teachers interested in results.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Student Math Video in 3 parts

From Peninsula High School, a Project, by Andrea Gagliano examines the controversy regarding math instruction with minimal guidance.

It’s in 3 parts:

Math Divided:

Pro and Cons of Both Sides:

SAT Preparation:

Making Learning Visible

In regard to:
"Discovery/Inquiry" vs: Example Based "Explicit/Direct Instruction"

Meta Studies examine the results of many, many, studies in a search for what works best so that better instruction decisions can be made.

John Hattie published "Visible Learning" which uses 800 meta studies which collectively looks at 83 million students and found the following effect sizes:

Problem based teaching = 0.15
Inquiry based teaching = 0.31
Direct Instruction = 0.59

Effect sizes below 0.40 indicate that practice is very likely to be ineffective,
while those above 0.40 should be seriously looked at for classroom use.

It is clear from Hattie's work as to why under Dr. Bergeson's 12 year push (1996-2008) for Inquiry based "Reform Math" math remediation rates soared. Mathematically weaker and weaker high school graduates entered Washington colleges. This continues today.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.

-- -- W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993)

The Central Administration and School Directors in far too many school districts are lacking intelligent application of the relevant data when making math related decisions.
If you wish to really know what works rather than being manipulated by anecdotes presented during "Professional Development", then order Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement by John Hattie.
The video is great because she attempts to be fair. But, the majority of people watching the video are going to take away the following as very important points:

1) The student saying that math class was better when the teacher guided them, because when it was student guided they didn't necessarily learn the math as well.

2) The student complaining that he didn't even recognize some of the math required on the PSAT.

3) The teachers explaining that the parents could not use the book to help their student.

4) The teachers explaining that the student could not make up work or self-guide learning because the book was for discovery only.

5) The science teachers unanimously opposed the reform math because the students came unprepared for science class.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Keeping the School Board in the Dark

This is a letter to Seattle's new CAO.

Dear Susan Enfield,

In regard to empirical evidence and peer-reviewed research:

At the High School Math adoption that concluded in a 4-3 vote on May 6, 2009, Director Steve Sundquist lamented the lack of empirical evidence.

Director Sundquist lacked empirical evidence because the Central Administration fails to provide it to the School Board.

Why??? Because there is no empirical research that supports the flawed math decisions that the Central Administration wants the Board to approve. So the administration presents no empirical research. This has been a major defining characteristic of Seattle's math decision making.

Consider the following:

"The goal of this article is to suggest that based on our current knowledge of human cognitive architecture, minimally guided instruction is likely to be ineffective. The past half-century of empirical research on this issue has provided overwhelming and unambiguous evidence that minimal guidance during instruction is significantly less effective and efficient than guidance specifically designed to support the cognitive processing necessary for learning."

Had Directors Carr, Sundquist, Maier, and Chow been presented with the half-century of empirical research, I find it difficult to believe the vote would have been 4-3 approving the Superintendent' s recommendation for High School Mathematics instructional materials. The same could be said for the elementary school adoption of Everyday Math on May 30, 2007. In fact the then CAO Carla Santorno made sure no empirical evidence was presented. The same half-century of empical evidence explains why k-8 math in Seattle and in this State has been so ineffective.

Check both the authors and the title on the attached article:
( download here:

Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work:
An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching

Paul A. Kirschner

Educational Technology Expertise Center
Open University of the Netherlands Research Centre
Learning in Interaction Utrecht University,
The Netherlands

John Sweller
School of Education
University of New South Wales

Richard E. Clark
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California

There is plenty of empirical research available and it all points out undeniably that Seattle's irrational decision-making in mathematics harms children.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Fads could end with corrected beliefs

After making a few such “errors” in public, reading scientists have begun, in the last 20 years, to get it right. But the only reason teachers can have confidence that researchers are now “getting it right” is that researchers made it open, public knowledge when they got things wrong. Proponents of untested and pseudo-scientific educational practices will never point to cases where they “got it wrong” because they are not committed to public knowledge in the way that actual science is. These proponents do not need, as Dennett says, “to get others to help in making the corrections” because they have no intention of correcting their beliefs and prescriptions based on empirical evidence.

Education is so susceptible to fads and unproven practices because of its tacit endorsement of a personalistic view of knowledge acquisition—one that is antithetical to the scientific value of the public verifiability of knowledge claims. Many educators believe that knowledge resides within particular individuals—with particularly elite insights—who then must be called upon to dispense this knowledge to others.

from Stankovich & Stankovich page 10 (first full paragraph)
available as a .pdf HERE.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Biologically Secondary Knowledge
takes effort to acquire

In his paper:

Instructional Implications of David C. Geary’s Evolutionary Educational Psychology

John Sweller School of Education
University of New South Wales, Australia

David C. Geary’s thesis has the potential to alter our understanding of those aspects of human cognition relevant to instruction. His distinction between biologically primary knowledge that we have evolved to acquire and biologically secondary knowledge that is culturally important, taught in educational institutions and which we have not evolved to acquire in modular form, is critical to instructional design.


Sweller explains that the revival of the constructivist reform math trend can be dated to ideas that originated around J. Bruner's work in 1961. Large amounts of knowledge are acquired "outside of school" with little effort, while in school many things require substantial effort to learn. The flawed idea brought forth from this is that school should be made like "outside school".

While these ideas produced popular trends in education (i.e. Whole Language, Reform Math), the altered instructional design of educational programs around "more like outside school" never produced positive results.

In 2000 a panel of Language Arts experts drove the stake through the heart of Whole Language, declaring that without "Explicit Instruction" there was an insufficient amount of learning happening. Geary believes that finding should be extended to the learning of all biologically secondary knowledge. If that happened the debilitating controversy referred to as the Math Wars would end.

Geary's observations about biologically primary knowledge explain the ease with which we acquire the ability to talk. Reading on the other hand is in evolutionary terms a recent innovation and is classified as biologically secondary knowledge.

For the vast majority of the student population the acquisition of biologically secondary knowledge requires "Explicit Instruction" and effort.

It is interesting to note that at Seattle's Garfield High School, a quotation from the math department head stated that student engagement in some of her classes that were using Interactive Math Program materials had gone from about 20% to 90% . However, from declining test results (WASL 2007 and 2008) of those IMP students and students at Cleveland high school, it could be inferred that math appreciation ideas of talking about math and writing about math are not as effective as doing math if the goal is to learn mathematics. Oddly despite 10 years of widening achievement gap for Black students, the Seattle Schools still choose to continue with debilitating reform math practices.

Message to Seattle Schools about math:
Dr. Geary has it correct and Seattle has it wrong.
Read Dr. Geary's study.
The study, "An Evolutionarily Informed Education Science," was recently published as the target article in a special issue on Evolution and Education in the Educational Psychologist journal. (see link at bottom)

This Study demonstrates the Connection Between Evolution and Classroom Learning. It suggests using more repetition learning in U.S. schools, and fewer 'fun' activities.
It seems that as Vince Lombardi said "Perfect Practice makes perfect" is relevant even off the football field.

The reason it is called school work is that to acquire biologically secondary knowledge requires work.

Sweller's paper states:
For several decades, the dominant theoretical framework of instructional psychologists has been various versions of a discovery learning/constructivist teaching paradigm (Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark, 2006). Although that framework can probably be sourced back to philosophers such as Dewey or even Rousseau, in more recent times, Bruner’s (1961) advocacy of discovery learning can be considered as the origin of the current movement.

If we wish to improve the math skills of the students, decision makers must intelligently apply the mountains of data that show Reform Math is a failed experiment. There is no point in continuing to listen to misinformed instructional psychologists. Let the engineers, scientists, mathematicians and other users of high powered math have their words heeded.

It is well past time to admit that most of the world had this one correct and the USA's different idea "Reform Math" is ineffective and needs to be discarded.
Great work by Matt.....

EdWeek article below includes a link to download a .pdf of the Geary study.
Many thanks to Elizabeth Carson of NYC HOLD that sent me the Press Release issued by University of Missouri on Geary's work.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Arne's Impact in Chicago = Zero+

Just like Rod Paige .... Arne is a master of illusion.

Just what we need another guy who has a lot of answers but has no track record of having correct answers.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

WASL Data 2005 and 2008

Here are 2008 WASL pass rates for all students and Black students from OSPI

Grade 4 Reading all 72.6% : Math all 53.6%
Black Students Reading 60.5% : Math 31.3%

Grade 7 Reading all 63.1% : Math all 50.5%
Black Students Reading 48.3% : Math 28.0%

Grade 10 Reading all 81.8% : Math all 49.6%
Black Students Reading 69.5% : Math 22.2%


Here are 2005 WASL pass rates for all students and Black students from OSPI

Grade 4 Reading all 79.5% : Math all 60.8%
Black Students Reading 69.1% : Math 37.7%

Grade 7 Reading all 69.0% : Math all 50.8%
Black Students Reading 51.7% : Math 25.4%

Grade 10 Reading all 72.9% : Math all 47.5%
Black Students Reading 53.7% : Math 20.4%

The 5 subgroups below are Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Limited English, and Low Income students.

In Statistical Summary of 2005 to 2008 changes:

Grade 4 Reading State Change -6.9 : Math change -7.2
5 Subgroups
average change -2.38 additional : math -0.14 additional drop
Black students absolute change -8.6 : Math absolute change -6.4
worse than state all ( -1.7) : better than state all (+0.8)

Grade 7 Reading State Change -5.9 : Math change -0.3
5 Subgroups
average change +0.08 additional : math -0.14 additional drop
Black students absolute change -3.4 : Math absolute change +2.6
better than state all (+2.5) : better than state all (+2.9)

Grade 10 Reading State Change +8.9 : Math change +2.1
5 Subgroups
average change +5.28 additional : math -0.32 additional drop
Black students absolute change +15.8 : Math absolute change +1.8
better than state all (+6.9) : worse than state all (-0.3)

Given the amount of money pumped into WASL testing the questions now must be:
Do we have bad tests or just a lousy system of education?

Looking at all the six sections above is Grade 10 reading improvement real or fake?

Article IX of the state constitution states:

It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.

I know Seattle is in clear violation of the State Constitution in regard to Mathematics. This will become very apparent in the McLaren, Porter, Mass appeal of the "Discovering Math" series decision on May 6, 2009 filed on June 5, 2009 in King County Superior Court when this comes to trial in early 2010.

The larger issues is:
Do the policies, WASL aligned recommended materials, and WASL testing that Dr. Bergeson put in place also lead many other school districts to violate article IX?

Large Achievement Gaps that do not narrow certainly are more than a statistical coincidence. In Seattle math this situation for educationally disadvantaged learners in math has consistently worsened for more than a decade.

In regard to grades kindergarten to Four ... a reading of Project Follow Through would help.
In regard to Math a serious application of NMAP documents is drastically needed.

And How About the WASL reading anomaly for grade 10 to make sure the kids can graduate.

Just another reminder of the huge difference in WASL reading score improvement from 2000 to 2005 while IOWA reading test scores were flat.

Conceptual Understanding

About some of those Administrators

Former Principal Niki Hayes writes to us from Texas.

1) It gets tiresome hearing factual data be "explained" away with education spin and knowing that legislators and business "leaders" take that spin at face value. But, then, it seems that everyone in decision-making roles is into spin these days. We thus go in circles and get nowhere.

The takeover of urban districts by mayors is one effort to "fix" systems, but it's still one government entity running another government entity. I maintain the public school system has run its course and a total transformation in education has to be implemented. Instead, we're going to put a bigger (federal) government entity in charge of everything with national standards and more layers of bureaucracy. My own personal efforts now are to push for CHOICE in every way, whether it's within a school or district regarding pedagogy/curriculum (traditional vs reform), and for choice of school environments (charter, private, vouchers, etc.).

2) As an administrator who earned her credentials at Gonzaga in the early 1990's, I can tell you we had a few lousy instructors and some really good ones. The woman who taught us legal issues nearly scared all of us away because she was so clear about the laws that work against education today. Anne Fox was my adviser and she later became state supt of Idaho for one term; she was excellent in training me about the realities of administration. Dr. Fox asked each one of the 16 original members of my group why he/she was getting an administrative certificate. I was the the last one to answer and I was the only one who said I wanted to be a principal so I could affect curriculum and productivity. The rest said, flatly, they wanted "out of the classroom" and into a district office position. In essence, they weren't concerned about making life better for learners, just for themselves. At least they were honest. And, their dollars were gratefully accepted by the admissions office for the graduate program.

It seemed to me that those individuals who think they want to be principals need to have a very different path to take in coursework. Those who want a seat in the "district office" need to take a different path. Regardless of whichever path is taken, ALL administrators who want to work in education should have to renew their certificate every five years by working for one-half a day, for at least one quarter (preferably one semester), with a regular ed classroom. My only misgiving would be the potential damage they could do to those trying to learn from them.

After being out of the classroom for 10 years and then going back into teaching for the two years prior to my retirement, I was a stunned. (My doctor had ordered me out of the principal's job because of physical health issues.) I was always a maverick as a principal, and one administrator told me once my "problem" was I thought too much like a teacher, but I was still ashamed to learn that I had been part of a system that helped make teachers' AND STUDENTS' lives unnecessarily difficult.

I just keep picturing children as collateral damage in our present culture of defined ideologies that are supported by those in power or with massive money resources. We will suffer because of our willingness to have allowed this to happen.


WASL Math change vs Reading : 2005-2008 for grade 10

State WASL score change from 2005 to 2008 for READING at grade 10 went up

by 8.9 points from 72.9% passing to 81.8% passing

what I find of greater interest is that every subgroup I compared
went up more than the State rise of 8.9 points
Hispanics by 6.7 points more
American Indians by 3.3 points more
Limited English by 4 points
Black by 6.9 points
Low Income by 5.5 points

For Reading these 5 subgroups have an average gain of 5.28 points
more than the 8.9 point rise.
Hooray for Reading!!!

------------ --------- --------- ---------
Now for Math....

State WASL score change from 2005 to 2008 for MATH at grade 10 went up

by 2.1 points from 47.5% passing to 49.6% passing

(preliminary stats for WASL Math gr 10 2009 = 45.26% passing)

Now lets look at the 5 subgroups in comparison to the
State rise of 2.1 points
Hispanics up by 0.1 points more
American Indians up by 0.4 points more
Limited English down by 1.3 points
Black down by 0.3 points
Low Income down by 0.5 points

For MATH these 5 subgroups have an average loss of 0.32 points

Now if that preliminary WASL number of 45.26% Math Passing for the Class of 2011
is accurate, then Math score from 2005 to 2009 will be down by 2.24 points.

Looking to the UW or OSPI for math guidance is problematic.
NMAP is a better choice.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Common Core State Standards Development Work Group and Feedback Group Announced

Common Core State Standards Development Work Group and Feedback Group Announced

So now we have a small idea on what is happening or at least who is making it happen.

On the Math Work Group:
Few Mathematicians and no teachers but filled with consultants.

On the Math Feedback group:
Several Mathematicians and one teacher
middle school teacher Vern Williams, a former National Math Advisory Panelist.

Who did the selections????

About the Seattle legal Appeal

Seattle uses Everyday Math ... CMP2 ... and just adopted "Discovering Math" from Key Curriculum Press. It is this High School Adoption that is the subject of our legal appeal.

Martha McLaren has in her possession 1200 pages of documentation submitted by the SPS that was used by the SPS in making the “Discovering Math” adoption. In looking through these 1200 pages, some documents that should have been available and used by the stacked core-adoption committee are not present, so perhaps an unbiased selection process was not desired. {Big Surprise ..duh!!}

#1… State Board of Education Math Advisory Panelist Dan Dempsey's letter to Math Program Manager Ms. de la Fuente in early March alerting her to the fact that “Discovering Math” had been found “Mathematically Unsound” by the SBE consultants and alerting her to make this information immediately available to the core-committee was not present. The next core-committee meeting happened without mention of the SBE finding.

#2… The mathematician W. Stephen Wilson’s review of soundness was not in the SPS documents submitted on which the Discovering Math recommendation was made.

#3… The mathematician Guershon Harel’s review of soundness was not in the SPS documents submitted on which the Discovering Math recommendation was made.

#2b & #3b… The favorable review from OSPI’s favorites King and Bright was present although far less detailed than Wilson’s and Harel’s reviews. The State board of Education Consultant hired independent mathematicians to review matheamtical soundness but Seattle's adoption committee does not even read their work. … How do these things happen?

#4… The NMAP final report “Foundations for Success” the current most pertainent math document for k-12 math direction is also curiously absent. What is available is a reference to the "NMAP Report" in a PowerPoint. This one page was part of a power point entitled High School Mathematics Materials Adoption, presented on 4/22/09
With quotations from page 30:
"for all a content areas, conceptual understanding, computational fluency, and problem-solving skills are each essential... ."
and page 45:
"All-encompassing recommendations that instruction should be entirely
"student centered" or "teacher directed" are not supported by research..."

Particularly odd was Director Sundquist’s statement that he turned to NMAP for guidance when apparently the adoption committees were not using this document.

So how can a high school math adoption committee meet for over six months and not reference NMAP???? I hope this happens only in Seattle.

The public will have totally lost control of everything if these actions are acceptable. Should not Math Program Manager explain all this or resign? That would be accountability.